Turn Off, Tune Out, Drop Out - Small Business On The Brink

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

An unknown but likely staggeringly large percentage of small business owners in the U.S. are an inch away from calling it quits and closing shop.

Timothy Leary famously coined the definitive 60s counterculture phrase, "Turn on, tune in, drop out" in 1966. (According to Wikipedia, In a 1988 interview with Neil Strauss, Leary said the slogan was "given to him" by Marshall McLuhan during a lunch in New York City.)

An updated version of the slogan might be: Turn Off, Tune Out, Drop Out: turn off mobile phones, screens, etc.; tune out Corporate Media, social media, propaganda, official and unofficial, and drop out of the status quo economy and society.

Dropping out of a broken, dysfunctional status quo in terminal decline has a long history. The chapter titles of Michael Grant's excellent account of The Fall of the Roman Empire identify the core dynamics of decline:

  • The Gulfs Between the Classes

  • The Credibility Gap

  • The Partnerships That Failed

  • The Groups That Opted Out

  • The Undermining of Effort

Our focus today is on The Groups That Opted Out. In the decline phase of the Western Roman Empire, people dropped out by abandoning tax-serfdom for life in a Christian monastery (or as a worker on monastery lands) or by removing themselves to the countryside.

Today, people drop out in various ways: early retirement, disability or other social welfare, homesteading or making and saving enough money in the phantom-wealth economy that they can quit official work in middle age.

We can see this in the labor participation rates for the populace at large, women and men. The labor participation rate reflects the percentage of the population that's in the workforce, either working or actively looking for work.

That the number of people in the workforce has declined significantly is well-known. The US Census pegs the number of people 'not in the labor force' at 95 million.This includes people who are disabled, in school, etc., so the number should be taken with a grain of salt. But the decline in the relative size of the labor force is remarkable:

Interestingly, the labor participation rate for women has held steady compared to the entire populace.

Now compare it to the labor participation rate for men, which has absolutely cratered:

The difference between genders is striking. Gender roles in society and the economy are clearly causal factors. Many have speculated that the decline in traditional strongholds of male employment such as manufacturing explain the decline of males in the workforce. As for the high participation of women, we might speculate that being caregivers for children and elderly parents requires earning an income, and as these responsibilities continue to fall more heavily on females, it may be that fewer women have the option of dropping out.

As for turning off, consider this account of tech overlords turning off their own childrens' access to screens (via GFB): A Dark Consensus About Screens and Kids Begins to Emerge in Silicon Valley “I am convinced the devil lives in our phones.”

I've written about mobile phone and social media addiction many times, so the reluctance of tech elites to let their own children suffer the ravages of digital addiction isn't surprising.

As for tuning out, the strident voices of political polarization are not as widespread as generally perceived: Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape found that the rabidly leftist / "progressive" tribe is a mere 8%, and their opposite tribe on the right is equivalently modest in number.

It doesn't take much observation to surmise that the majority in the middle are tuning out both polarizing extremes. Partisans may view this abandonment as negative, i.e. apathy, but this would be misreading the situation: the reality is the majority are tired of the poisonous polarities and the stultifying, going-nowhere toxic frenzy that destroys participants' equilibrium and sanity.

An unknown but likely staggeringly large percentage of small business owners in the U.S. are an inch away from calling it quits and closing shop. At some point the ever-higher costs of burdensome, mostly useless bureaucratic compliance and complexity, the ever more costly junk fees, filing fees, permits, penalties and taxes, the higher costs of labor overhead (healthcare insurance, workers comp, etc.) and the ever-rising costs of materials and services make it an easy decision to drop out of the rat race and either sell the business to someone less grounded in reality or just close it down.

Those who tire of being nailed by "tax the rich" schemes can drop out by earning less. Sell out, move out, drop out. Unfortunately for all those who depend on the Savior State, the state cannot force people losing money and their mental health to continue operating enterprises. (At least not yet.) Once small business and the productive wealthy (i.e. upper middle class) sell out, move out and drop out, it's game over for the "tax the rich" crowd and the local economy.

Dropping out is an increasingly attractive option. For those unable to drop out,turning off and tuning out are increasingly attractive options.

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